Victorian-Era Shape Books

Maxwell Library > Digital Projects > Shape Books

E. Elephant, Esq., Showman

Publisher: McLoughlin Bros., New York

This toy book, cut in the shape of a walking elephant tipping his hat, contains over a dozen children’s verses about Mr. Elephant’s circus show. The delightful illustration includes chromolithographs of the circus animals and performers.

John McLoughlin, a Scottish immigrant to America, began printing children’s books in 1828 in New York City. After his son John, Jr. became an apprentice with wood engraver Robert H. Elton, the senior McLoughlin formed a partnership with Elton and together they published toy books, almanacs and valentines.┬áJohn McLoughlin, Jr. took over the firm in 1850 upon the retirement of the original partners. His brother Edmund joined the firm in 1858, and the McLoughlin Brothers expanded their product line to include games, blocks, and paper dolls. In 1870 McLoughlin Brothers opened a color printing facility in Brooklyn, which was the largest of its kind in the U.S. at the time.

The McLoughlin Brothers published books by Kate Greenaway, Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane. Because of the lax copyright laws of the late 19th century, the firm also freely reprinted British books in cheaper formats. The McLoughlin catalog included books with traditional stories, children’s verses, moralistic stories, and educational works.

Edmund McLoughlin retired in 1885. John McLoughlin, Jr. continued running the company until his death in 1903; at which time his sons took over the management of the company. In 1920 McLoughlin Brothers was sold to Milton Bradley of Springfield, Massachusetts. The large Brooklyn factory was closed, and the McLoughlin Brothers imprint moved to Springfield. Milton Bradley liquidated all McLoughlin stock during World War II and the McLoughlin Brothers trademark was sold to Julius Kusher in 1951. The trademark was eventually absorbed by publisher Grossett and Dunlap.